The City of Lacombe approved the 2021 operating budget and utility rates unanimously in council last week.
The budget includes a 0.8 per cent tax increase, which remains lower than the regular inflation rate. According to Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Goudy, the City tried to keep the rate low to make sure Lacombe residents didn’t have extra financial strain this year.
“It is only thanks to some quick decision making by council early on in the pandemic that we are able to maintain services with a budget that is less than inflation,” said Goudy.
Goudy added many other municipalities could be facing higher tax increases because of the combination of Alberta’s economic conditions and the stress COVID-19 has placed on municipal resources.
The increase, which equals around $120,000, will go towards helping the City maintain important city services.
The budget also outlines a three per cent increase on water and wastewater utility rates, which is higher than the City would have liked.
The City recently updated the methodology used to determine how much water is being consumed in the municipality. The new calculation will focus on how much water is being used versus how much the City is buying from the City of Red Deer.
This change will allow for more accurate budget estimates in the future, according to Goudy.
Solid waste fees will remain the same as they were in 2020.
Another impact on the operating budget is the potential decline in user fees. The City expects a $200,000 decline in user fees because many city-run facilities have had to close or adjust operating hours due to COVID-19 restrictions. This includes buildings such as sport complexes, public pools, libraries and theatres.
“The library has seen a different impact than the pool would see, and so we’ve looked at that quite closely as we made our budgets for 2021,” said Goudy.
Though the City is also expecting a decline in building permit over the next year because of the slower economic conditions, Goudy said right now, they are seeing an average rate of permits.
Council is satisfied with the operating budget as a whole along with the fact that they could keep the tax increase below average.
“We thank city administration for working to keep costs as low as possible for citizens during a year that was economically challenging,” said Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey.